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Ancient Chinese poetry shouldn't rhyme in English, should it?

Discussion in 'World History' started by Mouthwash, Aug 4, 2019.

  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    This is purportedly a translation of the Chinese Shih-Ching, the 'Classic of Poetry', which is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry. Strangely enough, it all rhymes. I don't know any Chinese language-speakers on CFC, but if anyone has any insight into this mystery I'd like to hear it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2019
  2. JohannaK

    JohannaK Careless Whisperer

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    A literal transition certainly should not, but that is only one approach to literary translation, and especially in poetry translation. It is perfectly possible for the translator to try to adapt the words to English poetic structures to better preserve the reception of the text.
     
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  3. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    If you're going to twist around the wording to that degree, I don't see the point of a translation.
     
  4. Patine

    Patine Deity

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    The Iliad and Odyssey don't rhyme in English, and there's never been a huge chorus of complaints that I'm aware of.
     
  5. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    Then you don't see the point of poetry. Some modern "poetry" did away with rhythm and rhyme, the old one was done choosing the words and phrase construction to have it. A good translator should attempt to achieve the same effect!
     
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  6. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    I don't see the point of translating poetry, rather, as I don't think it can be appreciated outside its mother tongue. What they are presenting here is arguably a different poem.
     
  7. AmazonQueen

    AmazonQueen Virago

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    They did in Alexander Pope and George Chapman's translations.
     
  8. Tristan_C

    Tristan_C Emperor

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    Code:
    INDUSTRY AND FILIAL PIETY OF WĂN’S QUEEN.
    
            Rarely my creepers grow
            Into the vale they flow:
            O, ’tis a leafy sea!
            Golden orioles, taking flight,
            Now on the bosky trees alight,
            Chirruping all with glee.
            Rarely my creepers grow!
            Into the vale they flow;
            Thick are their leafy beds.
            These will I cut, prepare, and boil,
            Lawn, coarse and fine, that ne’er will soil,
            Weaving out of their threads.
            Then let the matron know,—
            Know I must homewards go;
            So be my wardrobe clean;
            So be my robes rinsed free from spot.
            Which then be sullied, and which be not?
            —Parents must aye be seen.
    
    looks like a poem that would have been commissioned for the wedding. I am kind of terrible at this stuff, but I am guessing the perspective is that of the woman. I wonder what the "my creepers" refrain is supposed to say about the marriage, exactly? There seems to be a mix of positive and negative messages about them- like they are described admiringly, but the way they rarely grow and create a mess when they do, means they're something of a liability.

    The "translation" strategy here would be to adequately import the form and content to preserve the meaning. I think anything coherent from an Asian language is pure interpretation. Try to translate them literally and you get stuff like this

     
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  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Why are you reading it in the first place, then? This complaint all seems very abstract and generalised to me. If you think that the poems you're referring to are bad translations then you ought to point to specific mistranslations in them rather than merely assume that they're bad translations because they rhyme.

    It's perfectly possible to translate a poem from one language into another while retaining poetic form and the spirit of the original even if the actual words differ. The best example I know of is Michael Flanders' translation of Georges Brassens' La Guerre de 14-18, which is even harder as it's a song and it has to match the tune too. It's certainly a very loose translation but you can't deny that it's faithful in the way that matters:



     
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  10. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Then why did you make this thread :confused:
     
  11. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    Because I was curious if the translation was genuine. I read a verse of it in a book.
     
  12. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    If you don't see the point in translating poetry, because you don't think it can be appreciated outside its original language, then wouldn't the answer to this question automatically be "no"? How could any translation be "genuine"?
     
  13. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    I said that poetry shouldn't be translated into another language, not that it can't be.
     
  14. Tristan_C

    Tristan_C Emperor

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    To him who in the love of nature holds communion with her visible forms, she speaks a various language you pleb.
     
  15. Tristan_C

    Tristan_C Emperor

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    Seems like Shakespeare's legendary first stanza to sonnet 18 gets pretty gentle handling when google translates it to traditional Chinese (Han?) and back again. At least until he complains about his problems renting an apartment during the summer.

    Should I compare you to the summer day?
    You are more lovely and gentler
    The rough wind shakes the baby of May
    Shorten the appointment time with the summer lease

    Japanese:
    Do you want to compare yourself to a summer day?
    You are more beautiful and milder
    Strong winds shake beloved buds in May
    And summer leases all have a short day
     
  16. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Why poetry, specifically, and not literature? Language is not used carelessly in either, and while we might assume that poets pick their words more deliberately than authors on a line-by-line basis, that doesn't clearly prevent effective translation, it just places a proportional burden on the translator. Doubtless some poems defy effective translation, but I'd take them to be an exception rather than the rule.

    (I'd be interested to hear what @Kyriakos has to say on this- as far as I'm aware, he's the only OT poster with experience in literary translation, so he probably has some more insight than the rest of us plebs.)
     
  17. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    My problem was with it rhyming. That seems very hard to pull off while keeping to even a rough translation.
     
  18. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Not really. But more on topic, 'ancient Chinese poetry' can be quite tedious to translate (or even read); adding rhyme gives the translator a bit of a challenge. And then, literal translation is what google think is 'translating'. Humans should know better. Any translation is an interpretation. Translation (like reading) is all about meaning and you can't determine meaning without close reading and knowing context. Since you can't tell a computer what 'close reading' is or how to interpret context (there simply aren't parameters for that), we'll always need human translaters to get any meaningful translations. With or without rhyme.
     
  19. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Don't worry, computers will soon be conquering humans and forcing us to use The Most Efficient Language.
     
  20. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    God forbid.
     

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